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Posted March 9, 2007

Questions raised by Victor Klimoski in the book

Priestly Ministry in Multiple Parishes

This book is already cited on our website

Priests report that other priests have been among their best resources in learning what to do in a clustered parish. One might think that the local diocese itself would be at the forefront in orienting and sustaining priests as they tackle the issues posed by cluster ministry. That does not seem generally to be the case, though there are certainly exceptions.

Priests note with concern there perception that significant, broad based planning involving all the stakeholders is lacking. Nor is there the kind of investment one would expect in the professional development and support priests need in order to thrive in their assignments.

What on-going formation addresses the felt needs of multiple parish pastors?

How will a new definition of parish emerge that reflects the realities from the field and influences chancery expectations and policies?

How will a diocese ensure that pastors will be able regularly to make retreats, attend extended continuing education programs, and take annual vacations that priests say are essential to their well-being?

How will dioceses help clusters at least initially fund an adequate staff to work with the pastor in serving the pastoral and spiritual needs of people in the clustered community?

While it is inspiring to hear what priests are accomplishing in this new form of parish, one wonders whether dioceses are forming partnerships with these priests to address the gaps and shortfalls the model produces.

Theological reflection must follow on what all this means for an understanding of church, the ordained ministry, our theological vision, the role of lay ecclesial ministers, and the role and responsibility of the laity. Clustered ministry is indeed an organizational and personnel deployment issue. There are plenty of practical concerns to galvanize our attention. But ministry that takes its single cue from the practical, from what it requires to deliver services, falls short of its mandate. Ministry draws its life and breath from a theological consideration of what each practice contributes to proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. It is also theology that holds us accountable to what advances mission, not simply what gets us by for a time.